Tuesday, January 29, 2013

She said WHAT?!

Ever have one of those days, where everything is going just peachy and you're feeling fine, and then you read something that just sets your hair on end and sends you hurtling into a bad mood in 1.2 seconds? I had one of those days today.

Normally I don't let the little things bother me. I live by the adage that I should never take things personally. I think that whatever someone says to me reveals more about them than it does about me. I firmly believe that I don't know what your life is really like, therefore I am not permitted to comment on it, and vice-versa. I respect people's decisions, and I expect the same in return. I was raised to believe that we should say nice things to one another. You know, Be Kind. Maybe that's where I've been mistaken.

I received a very rude message today from someone who felt the need to comment disparagingly on my parenting skills, my values, my faith and my lifestyle. It was a very personal attack. And I was stunned.

This is someone who doesn't know me well. We were very good friends at one time, but haven't been close for years. There has been no consistent communication between us in a very long time. So I was baffled - by the venom, by the rudeness - but mostly I was baffled as to why I was chosen as a target.

It's a very sad commentary on society in general, and this person's life in particular. I am saddened by the fact that common decency is no longer common. I am saddened that someone would lash out so viciously  without provocation. I am saddened that this person must be dealing with something that is too big for them to bear. And I am saddened that I let it hurt my feelings.

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." ~ His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

"Deeds of kindness are equal in weight to all the commandments." ~The Talmud

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wearing the collar and saving the bow

This past weekend I was Ordained.

My kids asked me what this means, and if they have to call me "Father Mom."

It means that I am now - officially - a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America.

It means I can be called Reverend. (not Father Mom)

It means I can wear the collar and the stole.

It means I can put a "Clergy" placard on my dashboard and park a little closer to the hospital entrance, if I need to.

It means I can be called upon to pray in public, or at the dinner table. Not that I haven't been before, but now I'm expected to say "Of course!" and launch into an impressive and theologically-sound missive thanking God for pizza.

More importantly to me, Ordination means that the calling I heard from God so clearly when I was 13, has been validated by the church. It means that I publicly promised to live for Christ; to love God and to love people. It means that everything I have undertaken and accomplished over the past 10 years or so (Seminary, Clinical Pastoral Education, internships, post-graduate courses, etc.) was recognized by the church. It means that everything has changed. It also means that nothing has changed.

When I was a kid, every time we unwrapped a gift, my mother would say "Save the bow!" She was big on reusing things. But sometimes she would put aside the bow in order to remember the occasion.

My ordination is the Bow on the Gift that God has given me - the Gift of a call to ministry. 

I'm so thankful for that gift. And I will save the bow.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Guest Starring...David!

Today's blog post was written by my David - my husband, ministry partner, and best friend. Enjoy!

Deacon’s Year End Report

Greetings and Blessing from the Oasis Renewal Center.  2012 was a year of incredible blessings for the Oasis as we have seen God’s plan for us revealed.  I am truly awed and humbled by the gifts we have received, and the stunning vision that the Lord has laid out for us.  Not only has this been a transformative year for the Oasis but for me personally as well.  Thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged us this past year.  We hope that you will continue on this journey with us.

Most of you know the story of our journey this year.  Susan and I talked and prayed about where our lives should go and how we could best serve the Kingdom, and we began to develop the idea for the Oasis Renewal Center.  We wanted to eventually open a retreat center, combining her gifts in worship and counseling with mine in hospitality and administration.  Sort of like a church and bed and breakfast rolled into one.  We wanted to create a serene, safe place where people could come and grow closer to God and each other.  We expected that sometime much later - like when we retired - we could open a place like that.

It was a pleasant dream and we began to explore Arizona looking for a community to eventually settle in.  Arizona has such a diverse climate that we looked at alpine valleys, searing deserts and lush riparian wetlands – all within an hour or so of a major airport.  A thousand miles later we ended up back in Sonoita – a beautiful high desert oasis we had driven through the summer before and were immediately drawn to.  And then we got a big shove and all of the reasons to wait simply vanished. (Both of us found ourselves unemployed within a week!)  What had been a distant dream was suddenly much closer and we felt called to pursue it.  It’s hard not to believe that God has a plan for us when you look at all the improbable pieces that have come together for us in order for the Oasis to be born.  Fittingly we purchased the Oasis on December 21st and held our first Christmas service there two days later.

The biggest lessons I have learned through this process are patience and faith.  My faith has been tested regularly this year and quite vigorously at times.  We had been given the vision to pursue the Oasis, both Susan and I felt it clearly in our hearts and in our prayers, and yet there seemed to be so many insurmountable obstacles.  How could this possibly work?  The truth is that without faith and patience it never could have; this is nothing that Susan or I could have done on our own.  There is no way our works or our efforts could have led us here, only our faith and our desire to serve as we had been called could have made this possible.  We had to trust that God would provide us what we needed, when we needed it – and He has.

There have been a half dozen times in the past year where we have hit a brick wall trying to follow our call and it seemed like we would fail.  Through patience and faith we persevered and trusted that God would provide, an in each case we have been given our daily bread – just enough for what we need today.  I am struck by the fact that in each case we got exactly what we “needed”, not necessarily what we wanted or what we asked for but enough to carry us through.  The birds trust in God that they will have enough to eat that day, and He provides that for them.  They don’t get a month’s supply, they get their daily bread.  As we have progressed on this journey I have learned to trust that He will provide the same for us as we pursue our service to the Kingdom.  I could go on, but the important point is that we have been blessed with exactly what we needed when we needed it so often this year that my only reasonable conclusion can be that God is at work.

And so let’s recap where the Oasis is at the end of 2012 and where we hope to go in 2013.

The Oasis received nearly $10,000 in donations last year from dozens of generous donors around the country – and we are so grateful for your support!  We have received donations of time, talent and treasure from many wonderful people.  A number of folks have gone down to the property to help with the renovations or have already committed to in the next few months.  Others have contributed tools, furnishings and art work.  And several folks have donated their unique talents as we have developed our ministry and marketing materials.  To everyone, thank you again!

As I said, God has given us our daily bread.  We have raised enough money to purchase the property and begin the renovation.  Our current donations will allow us to complete the demolition phase and remodel the bathrooms.  We are updating the two full baths and reconfiguring the four bedrooms to accommodate up to 12 guests.  We have most of the tools and materials we need for this phase, and several volunteer laborers!

The current state of the property is charitably described as “rustic” although we expect that when we are complete with the renovations we will be on track to achieve the upscale feel we are looking for.  Two of the guest rooms will feature a pair of twin beds, a dresser, night stand and sleeper sofa. The twin beds can convert into a king bed for couples.  A third guest room will have a queen bed, dresser, futon and a private bath.  The fourth guest room will feature a pair of twin beds, a dresser and night stand.  We are well on our way to furnishing these rooms with our donations and commitments to date.

The next major indoor project that we need help with is the wood floors and trim throughout the living quarters.  We are looking to install bamboo wood floors and trim in all of the bed rooms and the living room.  We selected bamboo because it is a durable and sustainable resource that fits well with our philosophy of being good stewards of creation.  The wood floors and trim will give a warm, relaxed feel to the Oasis. Our projected cost for this project is approximately $5,000.

The second major indoor project that we are looking to undertake is the renovation of the kitchen.  We have purchased a beautiful dining room table with chairs and bench seating.  The problem is that the cabinets and countertop are... well, hideous. (Olive green tile!)  We will need new cabinets, a new stove, dishwasher and refrigerator.  We will tile the countertop and backsplash once we collect these pieces.  We also need a washer and dryer.  If there are any of these items that you can help with we would greatly appreciate it - just let me know!

Once the indoor renovations are complete we will begin work on some of the exterior updates.  The most critical, and the most expensive, is the 35 year old roof.  It has been patched but really needs to be replaced sooner rather than later.  We want to coordinate the roof project with the addition of a grid-tied solar electric system.  Our goal for the Oasis is to create a self-sustaining community resource so this is an important piece.  It’s also a very expensive piece, with a final cost of $20-25,000.

Our 16-acre property sits on a hill top amid scrub oaks, juniper and waist-high native grasses.  We plan to carve walking paths to quiet seating areas, build a labyrinth and install a number of fountains and ponds.  It’s so exciting to see the wonderful gift God has entrusted to us, and frustrating to have to wait to see it completed.  Faith and patience again.

We ask that you continue to pray for us and support us in any way you can.  If you can help with volunteering your time, or donating needed items; donating for a specific project, or to the general fund, it would be greatly appreciated.  Please let Susan or I know if you can help.